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Dear La Connection:
I’m glad that a “Historian of the Marathon” cares so diligently about the history of the event, but I must correct your correction. I hold in my hand the flyer for the 1976 24-Hour SciFi Marathon, which clearly heralds it as the “Second Annual.” I started the event in 1975, not 1976.
Thanks to Justin, J.D. et al for picking up the torch after I moved to Los Angeles in 1979. That new sci-fi films came back into production following the 1977 Lucas benchmark is something that has been a boon to us all.
It was a very special time in history we all shared then. Sadly, it seems likely that no later generation will ever love or experience cinema in quite that way again.
They were the happiest days of my life I’d say now (undoubtedly to the chagrin of both women who were married to me). I was the Managing Director of the Welles from 1971-1978, and it was the theater version of what Orson said about filmmaking while directing KANE with no strings attached: “The greatest electric train set a boy ever had!”
Anybody remember that in the 24-hour Sci-Fi Marathon (which I began in the early Seventies on President’s Day Weekend to fill the theater on a weekend the audience often took out of town for vacation) that in 1977 we had the first public showing anywhere of a reel of preview footage from STAR WARS?! The marathon was getting a little creaky with little new material to offer and many favorites repeating ad infinitum, so I asked around for ideas from friends in the biz. Gary Meyer in Berkeley said “You know I hear George has a clip reel from this new picture of his Fox is supposed to release called STAR WARS, but they seem to be just sitting on it. Maybe you could get that.” So I called the branch manager of Fox in Boston, Marty Berman, and asked him. He said he knew they had this picture in the line-up that they referred to as some silly sort of sci-fi/western, but it wasn’t scheduled yet and they weren’t saying too much about it, but he’d ask “the guys on the Coast.” He called back the next day to say Fox HQ said “OK” after he suggested that this theater famous for its wacky college audience might shed some light into how people reacted to the film they didn’t want to expose yet. A week or so later we got the reel, about 10 minutes long, I think, all clips, and three of us looked at it one morning in Cinema 1 with our mouths agape. Needless to say it went into the marathon program and was bicycled between both Cinema 1 and 2. The audience went nuts, especially in the clip (completely out of context) when R2D2 does a face plant like Arte Johnson on Laugh-In. On Tues. I called Marty Berman. He asked how it played to “the kids.” “Pretty good, pretty good, Marty,” I said. “By the way, what are you doing for first run Boston area on it?” He told me they had no plans yet because sci-fi had been out of favor since SPACE ODYSSEY and westerns hadn’t been popular since THE WILD BUNCH. The studio had no hopes for it and was even thinking about not releasing it to save embarrassment. I told him I wanted it for the Welles, even though we didn’t play first run studio films. We’d even put up an advance guarantee. He agreed to see it he could get the bosses to go along and maybe let the college kids set the compass for the release. Again, next day he called back and said he was sorry but “The Coast” decided they could not vary from a normal first-run theater pattern, because this guy Lucas was a big shot since AMERICAN GRAFFITI and they might get sued for messing his film up if they got creative in marketing. They would just put it in a couple of the usual first run houses and let it die of its own merits in May. I knew he was powerless, so I thanked him, went to the Coolidge Bank in Harvard Square, withdrew my entire $1500 savings and bought Fox stock at about 4 bucks a share. After the picture opened in May I sold it at $47 a share.
One last anecdote: Anyone remember the very first House Manager of the Welles? Tommy Lee Jones in spring of his senior year at Harvard.
I’d love to be in touch with some of the old gang from those days. I’m releasing films now from a base in Northampton, MA, after 22 strange years in Hollywierd. (Current pic is “DON’T MOVE.) You can reach me at